One of the best things about being a punk fan is that your favorite bands never stop to take a break. It seems like just yesterday that Shamebirds blew my mind, and we already get a new release from NEEDLES//PINS: a split 7″ with Dirtnap mainstays, Low Culture.
Dirtnap Records (the label responsible for this release) gives a very accurate description of Low Culture. Low Culture features members of two other bands (one of which is Chris Mason, head of Dirt Cult Records, the label that released Shamebirds): The Marked Men and Shang-A-Lang. The Marked Men are known for their brand of tight, clean, catchy pop songs, while Shang-A-Lang’s style is perhaps more distinct, being far looser with their playing and song structure. Low Culture is playing loose songs tight. It’d be no exaggeration to call “Reservations” schizophrenic. With how often and suddenly the melody changes, you could get away with calling it “free punk”. It’s a bit jarring at first, but it might also be the most musically interesting song here. Repeated listens will likely be needed for it all to sink in, but in time, each melody worms its way in, and it’s a lot of fun. “Don’t Tell Me” is a much more straightforward track, with a solid hook, but it still maintains the Low Culture spirit. It’s a bit off-kilter, but this one is easier to grasp, without really sounding like any other band doing garage punk now. If being unique and fun are signs of being a good band, then Low Culture is a great band.
Beyond that, I’m a NEEDLES//PINS fanboy. Immediate, infectious, clever without being wordy, emotionally open without being wussy; these guys are the guys keeping the old pop-punk sound sounding new. “Bored” and “Hateful” might have been out of place on Shamebirds, but they’re by no means lesser songs. “Bored” feels heavier than anything on that album, and a bit more ragged, but retains the catchy, anthemic spirit of their best work. “I’m bored, motherfucker, and I just wanna go home. I’m better off on my own.” will go down as yet another simple, but absolutely brilliant hook the band has penned. And “Hateful” is likely the best thing here. The lead melody on top of the rhythm melody is pure gold, and the vocals are mixed lower than they usually are in NEEDLES//PINS songs, making this sound particularly unique amongst their catalog. Both songs deal with strained relationships (NEEDLES//PINS’ specialty), but “Hateful” hits particularly hard.
The split is available for purchase through iTunes and stream-able through Spotify now, and will soon be available for physical purchase through the Dirtnap Records webstore. If iTunes and Spotify are a hassle, you can stream “Reservations” on Wondering Sound.
Also check out old(er) music videos for “Shaker” by NEEDLES//PINS and “Screens” by Low Culture (Throwback Thursday, I guess).
By Travis Shosa